Some Georgia/Florida thoughts from the Heartland

I’m live and coming at you from Kansas this week; which is where I’ve spent the last two weeks on business travel and hence the lack of posts over that time.  The people here are nice, but it’s always unsettling to be removed from God’s country for too terribly long.  Anyways, I can sympathize with this guy now even though he’s stuck in Big 10 country.  At least I’ve got the Big 12 folks to talk to.

Anyways, I don’t know what much can be said about this week.  The Dawgs start the week off as 16 point underdogs to the defending SEC and national champs that pantsed the Dawgs by 39 points last year when the Dawgs still had two 1st round draft picks in its backfield.  The defending champs return 21 of the 22 on their defensive two deep and still have the Jesus Child running things behind center. 

I honestly have no clue what to expect this week.  Certainly history over the last two decades suggests that the bye week in this series goes a long way towards determining the winner of the game.  I don’t know if I buy that this year because frankly I just don’t think Georgia is good enough to beat Florida.  Talented enough, yes.  Good enough, not so much.  As I left Sanford Stadium following the South Carolina game this year I turned to my buddy and said “This is the most pure talent I’ve ever seen in Athens.  This team could win 10 games or it could lose 6 and neither would surprise me.”  That still holds true for me right now, although obviously we’re much more likely to lose 6 than to win 10 at this juncture in the season.  I realized early on this season that despite all the talent this team had it was awfully young and was likely to take some lumps along the way.  This team reminds me of the 2007 Florida team in that respect, but Joe Cox is certainly no Tim Tebow.

I suppose the keys to this game will be whether the team can put it all together for one week.  The closest its come was the game against Vanderbilt two weekends ago which reminded me that Georgia remembered how to play against an inferior opponent for the first time in more than a year.  It was comforting to see them take a clearly overmatched team and never allow the game to be in doubt despite some offensive struggles early on.  IF (emphasized on purpose) this team can get all three phases of the game to be competent I think it has a punchers chance against the Gators.

Clearly the Gators have struggled on offense once they started playing real competition this year and Tebow is being asked to shoulder much of the burden.  He’s carried the ball nearly 50 times in the last two games against Arkansas and Mississippi State.  The Gators have no clear deep threat and right now their most successful plays are the HB dive/Tebow Smash/throw it underneath to Hernandez or Cooper.  LSU showed that if you can’t stop the HB dive, Florida is content with pounding you on the ground and riding their defense to a low scoring victory.  Arkansas and Mississippi State showed what everyone knows.  To beat Florida you have to hit Tebow early and often.  Arkansas missed too many opportunities to put the game away and Mississippi State has no semblance of an offense.  Either of those games could have and maybe should have been losses for the mighty Gators.

To win this game Georgia has to not play scared.  I know it sounds lame, but I’ve seen some ridiculous things happen in Jacksonville over the past decade that leads me to believe that there’s a lot more at work between our players ears than just playing the game of football down there.  For whatever reason they have become like the fans, just waiting for that other shoe to drop against the Gators.  I truly thought the Celebration in 2007 was the catalyst that proved that Georgia was done playing scared in Jacksonville and in a weird way I still believe it was.  Last year was one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had after a Georgia loss.  I remember in 2003 exiting the Georgia Dome thinking “We just got our asses kicked by LSU”.  In 2008 I remember leaving Sanford Stadium thinking “Boy, Alabama handed us our asses”.  After the Florida game last year I was left wondering “Florida didn’t really seem to outplay us, how the heck did they beat us so bad?”.  It was just so strange because I’d never experienced a loss where I truly felt like we just imploded, but that was the case last year.  Anyhow, I digress.

If Georgia is going to beat the Gators this year, it must do the following on defense:

  • Stop the HB dive.
  • Get penetration up the middle on the obvious Tebow Smash downs.
  • Cover the TE for crying out loud.

That basically means that the defensive tackles and linebacking corps are going to have to play their best games of the year.  Will the bye week provide them the rest and preparation to handle this Gator attack?  We’ll find out on Saturday.

If Georgia is to beat the Gators, it must do the following on offense:

  • Stop with the silly notion that a balanced offense means the run should set up the pass.  The pass can also be used to set up the run.  Therefore, when Florida decides to line up 9 in the box and challenge Joe Cox to beat them, quit running into a wall on 1st and 2nd down and then try to pass on 3rd and long.  Take what the defense is giving and throw the damn ball up to AJ 10 times in a row to start the game if need be to spread that defense out.  Then we can start running the ball.
  • Keep Joe Cox’s jersey clean.
  • Avoid turning the ball over and creating easy scoring opportunities for the struggling Gator offense.  The last thing it needs is easy confidence.

There they are.  Three keys on each side of the ball that I think will determine this game.  As stated earlier, if Georgia can do those six things effectively they have a puncher’s chance.  Right now, I wouldn’t bet a case of Natty Light that Georgia is going to win this game, but it sure would be sweet to derail the Gators perfect season.  If you need optimism for this weekend, feel free to venture over to DawgsBUI.  He’s all about the positives.  I, on the other hand, just expect bad things to happen in this game.  Maybe it’s the fact that of my 25 years on this Earth, 18 have included a loss to the Gators.  I expect the Dawgs to keep it close, but never able to get past that Florida defense.  I think this game will be pretty similar to the LSU game where the Gators don’t blow the other team out, but the outcome is never really in doubt.  I certainly wouldn’t mind being wrong though.  If nothing else, I’d love for this guy to show up again.

evil_richt_georgia_bulldog_mark_richt_in_all_black

Will Evil Richt ever return?

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